Readings — From the August 2013 issue

In the Night Kitchen

From Artemidorus’ Oneirocritica, published last year by Oxford University Press. An encyclopedic treatment of oneiromancy, or prophecy through dream interpretation, the five books were written in the second to early third centuries a.d. and are among the earliest extant Greek texts on the subject. Translated by Daniel E. Harris-McCoy.

And to imagine that one has golden teeth is good for orators. For they speak, as it were, from golden teeth. And for others it signifies fires in the home.

And cabbages are in no way useful. And most of all they are grievous for bartenders and vine dressers and all those in a Dionysiac troupe, since in fact the grapevine does not weave itself around cabbages alone.

Thick and fleshy shoulders are good for all except those who are in bondage and in prison. For shoulders of this sort, signifying manliness and success, are grievous to men. For they will endure terrible things for a long time, just as shoulders are able to endure such things.

And of the so-called white vegetables, eastern cress and French turnips and pumpkins signify vain hopes. For all of these possess a mass that is not nutritious.

To observe the kind of ants called workmen is good for farmers. For they never cease from laboring. But whenever they ply themselves around the observer’s body they foretell his doom because they are children of the earth and cold and black.

And melons are good with respect to friendship and unions, for the poets refer to one who is most dear as one’s “melon.”

But the bat is good for pregnant women. For they do not lay eggs as birds do, but instead give birth to live young and have milk in their breasts and raise their own nestlings.

If someone should imagine that he eats many onions and gets sick, he will recover. But if someone should eat just a few, he will die. For the dying shed few tears, but the grieving shed many, since in fact they cry for a long time.

And it is wretched to stand with the mother positioned upright during intercourse. For people make use of this position because of their lack of a bed or a mattress. And it therefore signifies afflictions and difficulties.

And beets, mallow, monk’s rhubarb, curled dock, and orache are good for debtors due to the fact that they agitate the stomach and expel the feces present in the bowels. For the belly and entrails resemble a creditor.

And to be poor is beneficial to none, especially for orators and for all wordsmiths. For we refer to being poor and being unable to speak in common as being “at a loss.”

Flat cakes not seasoned with cheese are good, but those seasoned with cheese signify trickery and ambushes. For the cheese foretells these things.

To imagine dancing indoors by oneself with only the members of the household standing by and no one else present and observing is good for all alike. For it reveals great cheer and an abundant life, since people do not dance unless they have paid their due, for instance, to a tyrant who is severe and cruel in his rule.

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